The rivalry between Newcastle and Sunderland is unquestionably one of the most ferocious in world football.
While neither club is a genuine contender at the top end of the English game, it takes nothing away from the feverish atmosphere.
Most derbies pale in comparison to the intensity of the Tyne-Wear clash, and fans of both sides are willing to do just about anything to get one over their sworn enemies.
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Last season’s clashes ended in a 1-1 draw at St James’ Park and a 3-0 victory for Sunderland at the Stadium of Light – a result the Black Cat’s faithful will not be letting rival supporters forget any time soon.
But while the raw passion synonymous with the fixture is usually respectful, Sunderland players had to be dissuaded from pulling what would have been a hugely offensive stunt last term.
The Deal: Inside the World of a Super-Agent, a new book written by football agent Jon Smith, claims players representing the Wearside outfit had asked for T-shirts showing a black cat ripping apart a magpie to wear beneath their kits.
The Sunderland players had planned to reveal the provocative shirts in front of the travelling Newcastle fans if they won the match, which they did 3-0.
Desperate to follow through with the gag, the Black Cats team are said to have been openly willing to risk fines or disciplinary action during attempts to convince talk them out of it.
However, the players eventually elected to pull the plug on the idea due to the potential ramifications, according to Smith, as per The Guardian.
“Before one of the derbies in the 2015-16 season, the Sunderland players asked an agent to produce a T-shirt depicting a black cat savaging a magpie.
“They were going to wear it under their kit during the game and at full-time, presuming they won, all take their tops off and run towards Newcastle supporters showing off these T-shirts.”
Smith also offered his take on whether the act would have been crossing the line in the context of a heated football derby.
“In the overall scheme of things, who cares? They aren’t necessarily breaking the law but in football emotion runs so high it could create a disturbance or even a riot. And in that riot, if one child gets hurt, it is appalling. If one child dies, it is a tragedy. That’s what we have to contend with,” he wrote.
“It took that agent six days to talk the Sunderland squad out of it. He told them they would be fined hundreds of thousands of pounds but they didn’t care; there is at least something to be said for players being so impassioned by the cause that a financial punishment did not deter them, especially given the prevailing perception of footballers being driven solely by money. Here was the antithesis – they wanted to sacrifice money in a public show of hunger to avoid relegation.”
Would the Sunderland players have been crossing the line by going through with the stunt? Give YOUR opinion in the comment box below!